Old Shops and Village Rambles
Shops and characters to remember
Mum would send me to the Miss Marriots for my hair to be trimmed. Two kindly spinster sisters, who adored their many cats, they lived in the cottage next to the Band of Hope Hall (Joseph Webb Memorial Hall). Their garden was colourful with tall hollyhocks, lupins, foxgloves and stocks. I enjoyed going there and was always given a glass of lemonade and some biscuits. Sometimes, a lady would come to our house for my hair trim. At the end she always used neck-clippers; they were so blunt the hairs were pulled out by the roots. I dreaded it and would say timidly “My neck doesn’t need to be trimmed this time because Mum said”. Knowing I’d made it up while mother was out of the room, she’d say “Oh yes you do”, as I sat there, gritting my teeth.
We had a very good Bidford and Mickleton Co-op, where our excellent NISA is today. I still remember Mum’s 4 digit divvy number even if nowadays I cannot even remember my mobile phone number!
Along a short distance, past the much photographed cottages, was Emma Bennett’s house, a step up to her front door, from the pavement. It has been demolished now, where Tudor cottages are built. Dear Emma was a wonderful seamstress, did all manner of sewing in general. The poor woman had a harelip/cleft palate. How easily that could be surgically corrected these days.
Opposite Holly Mount there was the Carpenter’s Shed, the building still there today. The scream of the circular saw and lots of hammering coming from within always petrified me.
Across the drive, at Ivy Cottage, Mrs Yardley sold cigarettes. As we got older a group of us would be sent on errands to get Woodbines or Senior Service. Mrs Yardley must have despaired at times, when her bell rang yet again. She’d come to the cubby hole, a tiny head-height door, that she pushed open, and there would be no-one there. She probably heard the whispering and giggling though, from nearby hiding places!
Joe the Sweep lived in The Terrace, He liked to attend weddings and would kiss the bride, for good luck, while she tried to “keep him a distance” For he was BLACK at all times! He was a jolly figure on his bike, brush and rods over his shoulder. Maybe his skin gradually got impregnated by the soot, but with his black clothes too, the only light feature about him was the whites of his eyes! Remember Sunday nights’ Black and White Minstrels? Joe could have auditioned for it, and would not have needed the make-up.
Next door was Mr Johnny Hoggins’ farmhouse. I remember lovely summer evening walks, carrying an enamel jug which Mrs Hoggins filled with proper milk, fresh from their own herd. Those were the days! Get it back home carefully without spilling any, and soon there would be two inches of cream settled at the top, to be used on puddings or in Camp coffee (remember that?) I’ve never had milk since then that tasted as wholesome and good as the Hoggins’.
Well, this short ramble through the High Street evoked more memories. The steam roller was a regular sight, the smell of hot tar, chimney billowing smoke, keeping the roads in tip top condition (no potholes then!) Mr James, the lengthman, tended verges, roadsides and pavements, so everywhere looked neat and tidy. Mr Jim Moss, our resident builder, employing several men, played a big part in our village. We still have a lovely photo of him taken in more recent years. The Carpenter’s Shed, mentioned earlier, has quite a history. The Grinnall family, first, as general builders, used it as their workshop, then the Moss family, and Tony Harper carried on the carpentry tradition there, until he retired. What a hive of industry this little area was, with Sid Bryant, the blacksmith, just across the road.
Hopefully, by recounting just some of them, these illustrious persons will never be forgotten.
This article was first published in the Parish magazine, November 2011
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